Why I Was Inspired By The One Young World Summit

UK Ambassador, Ceri Davies on her inspiration from this year's Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

Follow Ceri on Twitter: @CeriDDavies


If you passed me in the street, you might well look at me and see a disabled young woman in a wheelchair. Yes, I am a 23-year-old who has spina bifida and cerebral palsy and yes, I am permanently in a wheelchair. But this has not stopped me from living my life and living out my aspirations.


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At 18, I set up my own company, CD Participation Services, travelling nationally as a trainer and consultant on motivational speaking and youth work. Five years ago, I founded a social enterprise to support disabled and terminally ill children. Not a bad start considering my "disadvantage".

Last week, I attended the One Young World Summit 2013 in Johannesburg, which aims to address the numerous global challenges the youth of today face. This forum brings together young leaders from more than 190 countries, who all share the same ambition about making change happen across the world.

Imagine a global showcase for those who will go on to help solve some of the world's greatest and most demanding challenges. These young leaders are the ones you might see go on to become prime minister, or become the founder of a global charity, or someone who goes on to fight for the rights of those who can't.

It was at the Summit I first attended last year that I became truly inspired to open people's eyes to disability. At last year's Summit in Pittsburgh, I shared a stage with world leaders and delivered a speech on disability rights and inequality. I don't think I'll ever feel the same pride I felt in the moment I received a standing ovation from my peers. They were all standing for me, but I felt like they were standing up for everyone I was speaking on behalf of.

This year, there has been a real sense of urgency to move discussions forward into tangible action. Human rights was one such area. This global issue has many definitions, from exploitation to equal rights.

These were not easy stories to hear, and they are not easy issues to discuss, but as a generation we must be braver to listen and to speak out. Social media has given us that platform to make the world listen. There are no excuses anymore. We all have the power to disrupt and to effect change. It just takes one person and one action to have an impact on a global scale. It is those disrupters, and those willing to fight for what they believe in, who will one day stand on the stage where the Counsellors stand, inspiring the future leaders of tomorrow.

One Young World inspired me on my personal mission, and last year, returning from the Summit, I went directly to my MP and lobbied him to campaign for the rights of people with disabilities. He did. And, also inspired by the Summit, I now visit schools in my area to mentor young people on how to participate in their community and engage in volunteering.

I also set up my own social enterprise More Mascots Please CIC, and with the help of our four magical mascots, we facilitate as many events for children and young people as possible to make a difference to the lives of disabled, disadvantaged and terminally ill children who, like me, require support and assistance to get through their everyday lives.

Before I started my social enterprise, I was told time and time again that I could not and should not do it. People did not believe I had the ability, because of my disability, to achieve what I was setting out do to. I did not share this lack of belief in myself. I am proud to have proved those doubters wrong.

As Kofi Annan said, when he addressed us at this year's Opening Ceremony: "You have wider horizons. There are no limits to what you can achieve, you are the smartest generation that we have ever had."

Let's hope he's right.